IWSG 48: How To Set Up an Interview

This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our encouragement or insecurities on the first Wednesday of the month, to join the group or find out more click here.


JQ Rose | C. Lee McKenzie | Raimey Gallant | E.M.A Timar

No optional question today…

Because I’ve got something else on my mind—Interviews for research.

After being stuck in Small-Town-Heaven, I need to get out. Most of my research is done online. It makes sense mountain roads can be dangerous in winter, and I’m miles from almost everything.

But I do have another reason I’ve not reached out. More of an excuse really.

We all know the feeling of rejection.

One of my biggest fears when researching is being rejected before I can ask any questions. It happened when I reached out to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police a few years back. They have a contact webpage. It looked so inviting.

They responded almost immediately telling me that it would take some time to get back to me. The answers never came. My questions were sucked into the black hole of indifference and I’ve listened to crickets for years.

I’m definitely not a reporter—chasing leads, pushing to the front of the crowd, and ignoring any and all snubs.

I’m really sorry it was my first attempt at reaching out because it’s left me gunshy.

Unfortunately for me, most of Canada is policed by the RCMP. There are exceptions: Ontario and Quebec have their own force and so do some cities throughout the country.

I just discovered one place that has city police—Nelson BC. It’s not far from me. I’m excited and terrified. They may be too perfect for me.

I like writing about small towns and small-town cops. Nelson is not huge. An interview would be great. If I find the nerve to contact the Nelson Police Department and set something up.

I’m not sure if failure is imminent but it sure feels like it.

Help me, please.

If you’ve reached out successfully for an interview, how did you do it? And yes I mean step-by-step directions, or any advice that may help me do this right.

103 responses to “IWSG 48: How To Set Up an Interview

  1. Good luck with your interview request. I’m guessing that you will find some people who would be thrilled to be interviewed, especially if you start out with smaller towns. Good luck!

  2. I’m a journalist, so I have some experience with ‘cold calls’ for interviews. I hate to disappoint you, but in my experience, of 10 random requests for information I ever sent out, I’d get 2 or 3 responses, if that. Unless we are talking about the artistic types. Those usually like to talk about themselves and their art. Fortunately, most of my articles are about art and culture, so I’ve been lucky with my interviews.
    BTW: Vancouver has city police too, although I don’t know if they would answer your questions. They have a museum though, so maybe visiting it would get you something interesting.

  3. Hi Anna! Sorry about your bad experience with the RCMP. Unfortunately, it happens more often than not that our emails go unanswered, or, that we receive an answer that is non-related (or stupid). It can be infuriating. Welcome to my world. 🙂 We, writers (and customers of whatever), have to be persistent.

    In my opinion, most people enjoy being interviewed. It makes them feel special and, in general, they like sharing their insights, learning experiences and anecdotes. I know I do. 🙂 I have a feeling you’ll get a positive reaction to your request! Ideally, you find a few cops who are excited to help an author write a book. That’s pretty special and amazing!

    I would try and research a few members of the Nelson Police Force online, to see whether you find personal information as to their “social skills and interest” and then write a few of them an introductory letter of what you are looking for and why, with a set of questions attached. And, a bit of info about you and your blog (and success as an author). Or, you could walk up to their desk and do the same in person. Good luck!

  4. Good luck! I’ve tried in-person interviews and they never seem to be as, ah, eloquent as email ones… Maybe that’s just me 😉

    Ronel visiting on Insecure Writer’s Support Group day: Autumn Decisions

  5. Good luck with your research interview. I haven’t made any interview requests but have made requests to find out more about a particular subject in writing groups on social media which gotten some responses. More often than not, chances are a small town cop for example, would be a writer too. And would love to share stories, what they love/hate about the job, etc.

  6. Angela Wooldridge

    Good luck, Anna. Don’t take the rejection personally, everyone is in their own little bubble and it’s easy for emails to drop off the bottom of the page because of other priorities. It doesn’t hurt to give a gentle reminding nudge.

  7. I’ll be checking out the comments as I can use some tips in this area too. I have a topic I need to research for my next book and I was thinking it would be helpful to interview a specialist in the field.

  8. I wish I had something to offer here other than my good luck wishes and finger-crossing. You’ll figure it out, and you’ll get it done, Anna. Definitely.

  9. Here from Alex’s blog. If you live nearby, maybe pop in with a fresh batch of cookies or muffins, something like that and introduce yourself. Then, target whomever is the most receptive. Tell them what you’re doing. Sometimes when a person has a face to relate to, it makes things more personal and you might have better luck getting some feedback. If that’s too bold for you, maybe volunteer at an event that attracts Mounties. It’d give you a chance to do some networking, and maybe find a liaison in the department who can help with your story. Just a suggestion. Your premise sounds interesting. Best of luck.

  10. Good luck! I have never interviewed anyone. I do all my research online.

  11. I haven’t reached out to request a live interview… yet.
    This IS an important aspect of research… and I’m interested in reading what other writers have done in this regard.
    I’m sure you’ll be okay… and I’m sure you’ll write about your experiences and findings in a future post. 🙂
    Happy IWSG Day!
    Writer In Transit

  12. Crystal Collier

    Honestly, I’ve only reached out to people I know, or people who know people I know. Truth, I get messages all the time on Facebook from friends about friends who have questions about my expertise. I really think it boils down to connections.

  13. I’ve never interviewed for fiction but had to for journalism stuff way back. I know it really helps if you know someone. I have relatives in Canada and I’d probably ask them first. I suspect police are super busy and afraid of liability depending on thequestions. I’m also really shy. Congrats on the bravery. But yeah Web forms are going to be hard. Because they’d have to put it in writing. Voice will be a lot easier I suspect. Canadians tend to be chatty too from my experience. Good luck!

    • I’m Canadian and that is why meeting them is so important to me. I want Canadian content in my work.

      And I hear you. If I knew them, I’d feel more comfortable approaching them. Well, I have some thinking to do. 🙂

      • Just a thought but could you contact your local police? Maybe someone in PR? You could even say as a citizen and writer you’re curious how things work. Or if you know someone in government they might know someone. Or you can volunteer too. I know a lot of times police also do some community service stuff. Visiting schools et cetera. Just some thoughts. Of the ways I’d take if I had the guts. Which I don’t. 😊 but I know someone who does volunteer work for the firefighters and knows local police that way. They don’t like reporters though. And they’re actually forbidden from talking to the press for legal reasons. But you can talk as a citizen in general terms

  14. It takes a lot of courage to ask for an interview, but just figure the worst thing that can happen is the person will say no. So ask. I interviewed 15 women for a book for girls and their careers. I was shocked I had so many prominent women in their field say yes. Now I probably had that many more who said no or ignored me. Do you have a local policeman–town cop– in your city/area? Start with him or her.Is there a female RCMP who you could ask? Get a name and try it. Somebody you know will know a cop who will help you out. Wishing you great success in this project! Be brave. You can do it, GRRL!
    JQ Rose

  15. Sometimes actual personal contact can produce better results than email queries. Perhaps telephone and ask for the public relations or press department. Stop by in person and chat up the administrative staff for leads to appropriate potential interviewees. Ask for information about applying for a position – they might have an informational packet that can yield contact names. Google and see who might have already given interviews or done press releases and call that person. Good luck!

  16. Good luck! I’m still very nervous about asking research questions in person – scary!

  17. I wouldn’t take it personally–they’re probably just super busy and didn’t really have the time to help you out. Here’s something else you might try–do you know where the police hang out? Like diners and restaurants where they might take breaks or have lunch? Stop by one of them and strike up a conversation, just posing as a ‘curious citizen.’ You might get lots of answers!

  18. Two things. People don’t respond to be interviewed because they don’t want to be quoted or something ridiculous or they don’t care. I sound pretty negative to me. Sorry about that, but thanks for visiting me at Journaling Woman.

  19. I’ve never reached out for an interview, but you can do it. All they can say is no and you have to find an alternative way to get the info you need. Good luck. I’m crossing my fingers for you.

  20. I don’t know how Canada is set up. In the US you would ask to speak to the Chief’s office and you can tell them what you want and they normally are happy to arrange something.

    If you know someone one sometimes they can just take you in and grant the interview.

    (I posted this below on wrong past clicked the wrong link so ended up on Tools one too.)

    I retired after 23 years in 911 Police/Fire/EMT dispatch. If you set up an appointment someone will be willing to talk to you. In fact, they will probably get a kick out of it. In the US I know departments sometimes allow citizens to do ride alongs, you might to see if they have something like that.

    We also had a citizen’s police academy which was free, you might ask about something like that which would cover all aspects of the policing right down to communications. (It was part of community relations and they had to go through background checks to participate because they would be around sensitive information.) I got to teach a class on communications once in awhile for ours.

    Have fun with it.

    • So far I have three choices: Reach out by phone, website form, or drop by with treats.

      You’re comment helped calm me down. I must have idolized the police more than I realized.

      They are people first–right? 😉

  21. Victoria Marie Lees

    I wish you all the luck here, Anna. I’ve never asked the police department for an interview. I’ve asked a gun question though. I live in a small town, although not rural. I asked by phone. I started with “I’m an author writing a story and I have a question about a gun.” I even offered to bring in my laptop and let them read the story. Luckily, my few questions didn’t seem threatening to them and the person who answered the phone knew the answers. But I did have a patrol car drive by my house for a few days after that.

  22. Oh wow, I feel that same anxiety over reaching out. I’d like to think a small police force would be more responsive. I hope you do take the leap and have success.

  23. There is a group on Facebook called Book Connectors. I have seen threads regarding law enforcement and people willing to help.

  24. mlouisebarbourfundyblue

    I hear you, Anna! I did a number of interviews when I worked on our university paper. It was always intimidating for me, and I was too polite to dig deeply. The only time I did a written request was when I was writing a story set in Newfoundland and wanted some information from the ferry service between Sydney and Port aux Basques. The head man there wanted to review my story before I published it. Not! In the end my Newfie story was published by “The Antigonish Review” and had nothing to do with ferries. Since then I’ve been relying on my own research. I loved the suggestion someone offered of showing up with cookies! You might want to contact Joylene Nowell Butler, a fellow IWSG member. She lives near Prince George in B.C. and has written an excellent novel, “Matowak: Woman Who Cries.” The main character is a policeman. She might have some suggestions! (https://cluculzwriter.blogspot.com) Have a good one!

  25. I’ve done very few interviews, so I’m not much help. Playing to a person’s ego seems a logical approach. “I’m looking for an expert in (whatever) field, and hoping you can assist with my research.” Unfortunately, there’s not much for experts to gain by being cooperative, and it seems everyone’s busy these days. Good luck!

  26. Oh boy! I wouldn’t even know where to begin with asking for an interview like that. I would be the same, scared of being turned down or worse ignored all together. Fingers crossed if you reach out to that other department, they will welcome your questions with open arms!

  27. Good luck with it! Perhaps try social media to find an “in.” I’ve seen authors go that route first.

  28. Thanks for stopping by my blog.
    This is a really good post subject. I’ve done research interviews before, but I always had a connection. I too would be interested in knowing how to cold-call a prospect or do whatever you do to get these interview. Good luck.

  29. I’ve run into the same thing. It can be very disappointing. Try finding someone who knows a member of the force. Ask friends or neighbors if they have a relative. I was lucky to find a relative with a boyfriend who was a cop, and then surprisingly I found a writer who was. You’ll get there, but if you find the courage, try walking into the front door, leave a card with someone in charge and tell them what you’re looking for. I know, a lot easier said than done. Good luck!

  30. spunkonastick

    Do it! I needed information about an assistant basketball coach duties for one of my books. I bravely reached out to the head coach at Clemson University where my story was set. Big-name coach – and she was gracious enough to answer my questions. When the book was released, I sent her a copy in thanks.

  31. I don’t have any advice for you, so I’ll sent best wishes for a good outcome that is productive for your work! If it comes about, you should tell us about it here on your blog! @mirymom1 from
    Balancing Act

  32. If I needed to interview someone at a police department, I’d try the contact page asking if there’s someone I can specifically ask my questions through email or over the phone. If that didn’t get a response, I’d go in and ask the same thing.

  33. Kudos to you for reaching out. That’s huge! I limit mine to online research and interviewing folks I know for fear of smack down. Keep us posted on how it goes.

  34. My experience so far with interviewing people has been good, yet that could change at anytime. I agree with one of the comments that planting yourself in front of them is harder to ignore. Emails are easily dismissed or forgotten. If the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has an office that a member of the public can visit, I would go right there. If you have a card showing your identity as a writer, perhaps that would command their respect. Being that your story will be revolving around a small town setting, I would present myself to the police station you mentioned in BC. Maybe they won’t be so dismissive.

    The people I reached out to were the local historical societies of the area I was researching about. Their whole life is providing a history for others to benefit from. Perhaps you can find such an organization that has the information you need about the area you are researching.

    Hope this helps!

  35. It is so nerve wracking. I actually interviewed animal shelter and toured the back facilities. I researched who was in charge and asked for them. What if you could find a retired cop? Or security at a hospital or school? Some security professionals have paid their dues in faster paced divisions. I wish you much luck 🙂

  36. Maybe someone else can set up an introduction, so it’s not a cold call?

  37. I’ll email you, Anna. I have relevant information that will help.

  38. I don’t think I can add much in the way of advice. I was going to mention remembering a blog post of Raimey’s that may have been topical. Of course, since she reached out, I am sure she will give amazing guidance. Best of luck! You can do this, Anna.

  39. Oh if you find out, please share. I’ve not had the courage to do this myself. I’m super excited for you if it happens.

  40. Hello My Dear,

    I’ve been afraid of doing lots of things. I’ve reached out and had doors slammed in my face too. But, one thing I’ve learned through these two experiences, is to keep on doing what I’m doing even though I’m afraid. I used to fear to go to the pizza restaurant in my small village alone. I thought oh my God, they will think I’m some kind of freak. Then, something happened and I had to go alone. Someone else was depending on me to go get the pizza because they were in a wheelchair and couldn’t walk. That day, with knees shaking, I walked to the pizza restaurant and ordered pizzas and waited until they were finished. Inside I was dying. The guests in the restaurant were so friendly, I almost fell over. When I walked out of the restaurant with two pizzas in my hands, it hit. I’d done it. So whatever you have to do, go ahead and do it. You’ll overcome that fear as you start moving toward what you know you have to do.
    Thinking of you and all the best.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

  41. I fell your pain. I’m planning to go to our local police department so I can ask a couple of questions about guns for my story. Not looking forward to that at all.

  42. Whenever I’ve contacted anyone directly, with research questions, they’ve always helped. When I’ve had to try contacting an organisation, rather than an individual I’ve had less good results. I suspect quesries get past on and then lost.

  43. If you can talk to someone in person, that’s always best. Keep trying. You’ll hit your mark eventually. I also have angst about cold calls. Maybe there is a retired officer who would be willing to talk to you.

  44. I’m not much of a cold-call person either. One way I successfully found interviews was by being where the people I needed to interview were. I always got permission first, and I’d just be working on my project in the atmosphere. When things slowed down, someone asked what I was doing. When I told her about my project, she opened up with stories, and gave me contact info to interview her later. This may not work for everybody, but it worked for me – twice!

  45. Wow, that was a bad experience for a first time, no wonder it put you off, Anna! I was a freelance journalist for ten years. I had to phone people for interviews all the time, and sometimes you would get the brush-off, but sometimes you’d strike someone willing to talk. My suggestion is simply take a deep breath and do it. Good luck!!! 🙂

  46. Requesting interviews has always been at the top of my “Uncomfortable” list. I know there are things I’ll need to reach out for, more information from a first had source than research can give me but it is scary and I applaud the efforts you’ve already made. Best of luck to you with your new lead. Just keep plugging away. I’m sure there’s someone out there willing to talk to you, especially if you just want some general information so you can get their jobs right in your book. Take care!

  47. Loni Townsend

    Best of luck with the interview request. It’s a tough step and often nerve-wracking. I hope you get information you’re looking for!

  48. As a journalist, I can tell you–you need to nudge, especially when the people you want to talk to are as busy as cops. I’m sure they didn’t mean to ignore you, but somehow, your questions got lost in the shuffle.

    I hope Nelson works out for you, but if it doesn’t, I have a great friend who is both a RCMP officer and a writer. I may have introduced you to him at SIWC. I’m sure he’d be happy to answer your questions. If you need his help, shoot me an email and let me know, and I’ll connect you.

  49. Hi, Ana,

    I wish I could help… I never reached out to anyone in law enforcement. The arts, yes, and like Olga stated, they are usually much more congenial.
    Don’t be shy, just GO FOR IT! Rejection is part of a writer’s daily life…

  50. No expert in interviewing here, but I concur with others that either your email was lost in workload, or there is reluctance to be put on the spot. I wouldn’t put my job in jeopardy by agreeing to be interviewed. Policies abound, right? I’d play it safe and ignore. Having said that, there are a lot of resources for writers in the area of law enforcement. Lots of writers groups, particularly those with a crime/mystery focus host workshops. The Sisters in Crime organization is a good place to start. For hands-on, Lee Lofland’s Writer’s Police Academy is a blast. http://www.writerspoliceacademy.com/conference/
    I attended last year. Lots of opportunity for face time with police officers,
    forensics experts, arson investigators, etc. For those who were trying to research firearms, if this is about instruction and safe handling, a local gun club might be willing to answer questions or even demo. And they tend to be well informed about firearm laws.
    Good luck, Anna

    • Thanks for sharing. I was specifically looking for Canadian policing, however, that has proved more difficult than I expected. I do agree that there is tons of information about everything else online. 🙂

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